Adventures in Cebu
Cebu was my first stop during my time in the Philippines and introduced me to the country with a bang. There's TONS to do here whether you're a city person, adventure junkie, or nature lover. Flights into Mactan-Cebu International Airport on the northern part of the island are cheap from many Asian destinations, and there's a bus system that further connects the whole island so it's ready to explore.
I came to Cebu primarily for the incredible natural scenery. Namely, I wanted to a) swim with whale sharks and b) hike to famous Kawasan Falls. After solo traveling around Southeast Asia for a few months by myself, I was so excited to meet up with two of my equally-adventurous friends from Hawaii to have a full day of exploring what Cebu has to offer. We opted to do a tour with Island Trek Tours to make things easy- a driver picked us up from the hotel in Cebu City early in the a.m. and drove us down to Oslob, where the whale sharks come every morning. You could ostensibly do this by yourself by renting either a car or a motorbike and drive yourself to the destinations. I was still rather new to traveling at this point and wasn't quite ready to rent a car in a foreign country yet (though now I love doing that)!
I can't even put to words how it felt to be in water with those huge creatures! A small boat takes you a couple hundred meters off shore and BOOM there's 10 whale sharks swarming the water beneath! Fun fact: they are the biggest fish in the world! But totally harmless since they only eat plankton. We got in the water with tons of other tourists there to do the same thing (the only downside of the activity) and swam with the gentle giants. At times they would bump into you as you swam and it was a freaky but exciting feeling. We got about 30 minutes to swim around with the sharks and then headed back to shore. Swimming with whale sharks had been on my bucket list for a long time, it was definitely an experience I'll remember for years to come.
The second part of the tour included a trip to Kawasan Falls, which is located in Moalboal, Cebu. It took an hour-ish to drive there from Oslob. At the entrance to the hike that leads to the waterfall, a local tour guide met us to show us the way. It's a really easy maybe 20 minute hike (more of a walk) to the waterfall past beautiful bridges, a bright blue stream next to you, and palm trees as far as the eye can see.
Let me just freak out about the waterfall for a second. The color of the water was icy, turquoise blue just like Gatorade. It's the stuff of dreams. I've seen plenty of waterfalls in my life but most of them have murky brown/green pools of water beneath....Kawasan THOUGH was breathtaking and just as beautiful in person as it is in the photos. I was a happy little waterfall elf the whole day running around and enjoying the views from all angles.
Make sure you go beyond the first main pool to the more secretive pools above. Kawasan falls itself is insanely crowded - like the Disney World of waterfalls - but that's only because it's a total gem and everybody rightfully wants to witness it for themselves. They went so far to build a restaurant right at the base of the falls... that was a bit strange but I suppose convenient if waterfalls make you hungry haha. Go really early in the morning if you want to beat the crowds, or like I said, go beyond the main waterfall to find a more serene pool to yourself.
There's plenty of stuff to jump off of and natural water slides around the whole area if you're an adrenaline freak like me. We had ourselves a day jumping with rope swings, finding the highest cliff to jump off of (safely, mom), and sliding down natural water slides. There's also the option to go canyoneering, a more full-day affair (and for a higher price) where you see even more of the falls, which, if I had more time, I would have liked to do.
The tour also included a trip to the less-famous-but-still-beautiful Tumalog Falls - but there was no water running at that time of year so it wasn't as beautiful as I saw in photos. After a full day exploring, we were dropped back off at our hotel. In hindsight, you could probably do what we did by renting motorbikes or even a car, but we didn't know that at the time and booked a pretty expensive tour. No regrets though, that was one hell of an adventure-filled day and one of my favorite memories from Southeast Asia!